All phenomena dissolve like mist. Therefor all deeds are forgiven. Every stranger is your only child. Relax and do what you like because compassion is your nature. Now pour another cup of whatever kindled this friendship. The candle is so small, and the desert is vast. Don't ask why we met here in this oasis of the heart. As long as we can smile for no reason, we know that we are destined for happiness.
Photo: On a wilderness hike at the sacred Mt. Tahoma, I met this little friend sitting just under the surface of the water in a clear mountain stream.
In the Vedic tradition, Bliss is the very essence of Being: part of the three-fold nature of the supreme absolute, "Sat-Chit-Ananda," Being, Consciousness, Bliss.
But in English, the word "bliss" is associated with a superficial state of temporary pleasure, a drunken stupor, or a high that won't last. We need to penetrate the real meaning of this important term, for there is nothing superficial about it.
Bliss is not an energy, a divine light, a life-force, or an outcome of spiritual practice. Bliss is absolutely nothing.
Bliss cannot be quantified. It is not given or received. Bliss cannot be communicated to you by a guru or a lover. Bliss is neither a transaction nor the result of purification. Neither vegan diet, nor yoga, nor celibacy, nor years of meditation lead to bliss. Bliss is giving up on all this.
Many wisdom teachers, from Gautama Buddha to Saint Francis, from Sri Ramakrishna to Eckhart Tolle, tell of breakthroughs that were not the result of any spiritual practice, but awakenings in the heart of depression, confusion, or illness. Liberation simply happened in a moment of divine hopelessness.
Blessed are the hopeless, who give up the bondage of believing. Bliss is only possible beyond belief, because only without belief is the mind innocent, free from the boundaries of the quest for anything.
Bliss is not some-thing. Something has boundaries. Bliss is the marvelous explosion that occurs when the mind becomes no-thing, and boundaries dissolve. The Buddhist term "Sunyata," doesn't quite capture the dynamic nature of this no-thing-ness, because "Emptiness" describes a static state, a still deep forest pool of annihilation. But when the boundaries of awareness dissolve in Bliss, there is not only emptiness, but a never-ending expansion. The sphere that has no circumference, whose center is everywhere, is a perpetual explosion of grace and wonder. The wild astonishment of dissolving never stops.
But the dissolution of mental concepts must be complete. The boundaries that dissolve include even the positive affirmations and beliefs in the most benevolent God. Hence the great Christian mystic Meister Eckhart prayed, "O God, quit me of God!"
In a private meeting with my Guruji, I asked him, "Who are you, really? Are you the world teacher? The Avatar? Are you like Krishna, or Buddha, or Jesus come again?" He looked at me with eyes containing the uncontainable emptiness where galaxies arise and dissolve. Then he gently said, "No, no. I am nobody." He was absolutely serious. That's when I knew he was my guru, though it took me years to realize what he meant.
When we desire to repeat a blissful experience, that desire is bondage, and a subtle form of pain. In the moment of our bliss, there was relief from the pain of seeking it. Relaxing for an instant, the mind was free to expand into its own essence: the blissful subject we mistake for an object. But after that instant of Self-referral, ignorance returned and we created a concept of "bliss" as an object out there, something to be sought.
Bliss is never the repetition of experience.
There is no causal relationship whatsoever between any object and the joy we seemingly derive from it. All joy comes from within, from the Self. Yet we seek to repeat the moment of bliss by seeking it in another object. The Yogis have a shockingly effective image for this delusion: It is like a mongrel chewing on a sharp dry bone, desperately seeking the taste of fresh blood. Eventually the mongrel tastes blood, but it does not come from the sharp dry bone. It comes from the mongrel's own mouth.
However beautiful the object of perception, it is like the dry bone. The glamor that seems to vibrate from the object is, in fact, the projection of my own desire for it, and this projection is the cause of my suffering.
Bliss happens the moment I stop gnawing. Yet a moment later, I associate that very bliss with the object I've just stopped gnawing. My mind falsely reasons, "I was gnawing on this object. Then I experienced bliss. Therefor the bliss must derive from the object." I fail to notice that the bliss only arose through exhaustion of craving.
Bliss has no substance and no flavor, not even sweetness. Perhaps I lick an ice cream cone to taste my favorite flavor, which I've been craving all afternoon. I close my eyes and say, "Mmmmm," returning to the original sound of creation, the great Pranava mantra. Yet it is not the ice cream that gives this moment of bliss: it is the simple fact that for a moment I gave up the quest and stopped seeking.
The same irony occurs in spiritual techniques. They do not create bliss: they simply focus the mind in a limitation that is more sattvic, more purifying than other attachments. It is like removing a thorn with a smaller sharper thorn. When my mind becomes fatigued even with the most subtle sattvic form, I give up my practice for a moment and just let go. That is when my mind transcends. The subtle form of the mantra, or the breath, can lead you away from the gross. But when you arrive at the subtlest of the subtle, you stand on a bridge to the infinite. It is time to leap into the formless, into no-thing.
Then there is the explosion of bliss, brought on by no practice but the abandonment of practice. The bliss is always already here, as the prior nature of pure non-seeking awareness. You dip into it when you gave up the subtlest effort to seek it.
Hearing this, one now wants to make "letting go" one's new practice. One wants to make a technique of "surrender." But this is just another trap. Surrender is not a technique. Surrender cannot be practiced. It simply happens, like a ripe pear falling from a branch. The very attempt to "practice surrender" creates more boundaries.
The great Nisargadatta Maharaj said, "There can be no causal connection between practice and wisdom. But the obstacles to wisdom are deeply affected by practice." Gurudev Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, who was Maharishi's master, said, "Spiritual practices can dispel the clouds of ignorance, but cannot throw any light on the Self, because the Self is the light."
So let's stick with the practice we already have, but take it more lightly! Know that our spiritual practice is a kind of good-natured joke. The more lightly we take it, the more frequently moments of bliss can flash out of non-doing and non-seeking.
If we keep our practice soft, and remember it is just a trick to short-circuit the mind, there will come an end to this game. There will come a falling away of the do-er. The quest will dissolve forever in the silent ocean of the golden void, which is pure Grace.
Jai Guru Dev
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God."
"I have come that they may have life, and more abundantly." ~John 10:10
Jesus seems to speak in contradictions. He wants us to be empty and poor? Then he wants us to have fullness, "and more abundantly." Is he a madman?
There is no contradiction. Jesus does not teach economics. He does not speak of external wealth and poverty, but of those inward qualities of the heart that transform the world by transforming consciousness.
In Luke 17:21, Jesus teaches that the Kingdom will not be found out there in a political utopia, nor in a mythical realm above: "But the kingdom of God is within you." Here in Matthew 5:30, he points the way to that Kingdom, through becoming "poor in spirit."
The Greek word for "spirit" is "pneuma," which means "breath." To be poor in spirit means quieting and surrendering the breath. Jesus teaches deep meditation, where breath become slow, fine, clear, and subtle, until the individual breath returns to the universal breath of the Creator. Humbled and impoverished within, I can be grateful for the gift of this very breath. Then I transcend the restless mind of anger and desire, entering the poverty of boundless silence, the wealth of emptiness.
Why not become hollow, following the path of Jesus' own "kinosis," or "self-emptying" (Philippians 2)? The Buddha called it "sunyata." Yet this is not the hollow of lack, but the vacuum from which creation arises. The source of the world is the hollow of our own awareness, prior to thought. Yet at the same time, it is the fullness of sat-chit-ananda, the Kingdom of God.
Through a breath of emptiness, I inherit the greatest wealth, pressed out and overflowing. Wealth is not having many things, but feeling infinite gratitude for the gift of Presence. Jesus does not teach theology or politics, but the art of living in this moment, this body, this breath.
The right attempted to teach the "gospel of prosperity." The left attempted to teach "the social gospel." But Jesus' words point neither left nor right: they point within. Justice is not imposed, but awakened. The world is transformed from inside out.
It is time to listen to Meister Eckhart, John of the Cross, Theresa of Avila, Mechtilde of Magdeberg, Teilhard de Chardin. Time to apply the salve of the mystics to the wound of Western civilization.
I hold the one who suffers in the fire of my breaking heart. Don't ask me to pray with words. The pure light within me flows from the Christ, who flows purely from God, who purely flows from the darkness of the womb of compassion. I hold you in me as a Mother holds her only child. This is how I pray.
"Striving for excellence" has really done a number on us.
Literally, it has forced us to become numbers: the records we break, the heights we attain, our SAT scores. Striving for excellence turns us into statistics.
The problem is, we can only strive for what we already know. You studied for those tests. They only measured the degree to which you were hypnotized by the knowledge of the past. They could not measure your Presence.
Who does your "excellence" excel? You can only excel the person next to you, the mark defined by another, the score you attained yesterday. Comparison kills creation.
In the Hebrew creation story, God is One and creation is incomparable. All sparkles with Tova, "goodness." God looks upon the whole luminosity of the world and sees that "ha or ki Tov: the light is Good." Tova is not relative. Goodness is absolute. It does not get better or worse.
God does not tell humanity to strive for something better, but simply to create and "bear fruit." The human mind, not God, is responsible for the suffering of discontent, polluting the world through comparison, abandoning the luscious tree of life, preferring "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."
True excellence can never be defined. It is unknown. If you want to excel, stop scoring. Stop comparing. Abandon all marks and grades. Don't move up another step, another initiation on the spiritual ladder. And for God's sake, don't become an "Ascended Master."
Sink into the Unknown. Fall into the incomparable majesty of who you are at this moment. This is all that is. This is creation's source.
Everything is happening right now. Nothing is happening yesterday, and nothing is happening tomorrow. Faced with this ineluctable truth, you can't do anything but stand mute, spread your arms, and embrace what IS. The only authentic action, the only action performed in good faith, is the action that flows from this embrace, this wonder, this moment.
On this birthday of Ganesh, the divine power who removes all obstacles through the union of Wisdom and Innocence, symbolized by the head of an Elephant on the form of a Child, we discover all the mysteries of God in this moment, this body, this breath, we discover all wisdom through the innocence of Now.Jesus also said, "Be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves." The serpent of Sophia-Wisdom breathes up the spine. The dove of the Spirit is our sigh of surrender. They embrace at the stillpoint of an infinitesimal bindhu in the muladhara, a lingum in the void. That is where the dance of creation begins in silence, the silence of your deepest meditation. Om Gam Ganapatayeh Namah.
Whether we are black or white, rich or poor, Pagan or Christian, Muslim or Jew, our ancestors are one Spirit, a "cloud of witnesses." They dwell in the realm of forgiveness.
It is better not to think of them as "dead" or "past." The grandmothers and grandfathers are ever-present tremors of consciousness, whose blessing is not attracted by our separateness, but our friendship. We gather around a single fire in the wilderness, and they are the stars.
If we cannot love our enemies, as Jesus taught, at least we can honor their ancestors, as we honor our own. Many blessings will come of this.
Collage by Rashani Rea on a line from our book, 'Shimmering Birthless: A Confluence of Verse and Image.'
Thoughts are waves in the ocean of silence. Silence is always transparent and clear, no matter how many sparkling thoughts arise and subside. Every wave of thought is made of silence, crystal stillness at play.
Suffering begins in the mind. It begins when I cling to a thought-wave and try to hold it as a belief. The wave freezes into a solid particle, takes on mass, becomes a point of view. Then thought gets heavy.
When I believe, my mind is very grave. And the gravity of a weighty thought sinks me. But when I am free from beliefs, I can allow myriad viewpoints to dance and ripple in the sea.
Now love is possible. Love is freedom from gravity. I love you as You, no matter what you believe. This is real non-violence. Non-violence begins with awareness that does not cling to points of view. It only took me seven hundred lifetimes to abandon beliefs and dance like a sunbeam on the waters of silence.
I don't care if you don't believe me. I love you. And I'm sure that God is just this human heart, free from all opinions.
O trembling emptiness in waves of uncreated light, flowering prism of the void, I dare not sing you into form, lest this ecstasy die!
The peacock's tail spreads confusion like a rainbow through nameless tears. Gaze into this jewel and see your own kaleidoscopic face, O Trickster of Vrindivan, blue as the yearning sky!
Through me you have become the amethyst of your own desire, a mirror shattered into perfection. This is the lotus of 10,000 daggers that pierces the chest of the Alone.
O Shyama Sundara, the moon, hearing your cruel flute, strews her petals on the still forest pool, a requiem for the heart. We are each other's madness, each other's inhalation.
Perhaps we are two syllables of one name, the voluptuous shimmering wings of So'ham. I listen to the lustrous silence in the sound of this breath. If you let me call you Krishna, I will let you call me your own Self.
It seems that we are constantly reacting to the "news." This has drawn us into the realm of re-action, and away from the realm of true action, which only arises in Silence.
We are now spinning dangerously away from our own centers, into the chaos of each others reactive karma, tangling us in each others' pasts, old stories of fear, violence, and false identity with race, religion, region, and party.
The answer right now is not to re-act, but to step back into the silence at the source of creation. The coming solar eclipse is a moment of pause, release from the peripheral spin, T'shuvah and return to the stillpoint at the center, the axis of alignment.
In ancient yogic tradition, an eclipse was an opportunity to fast, meditate, and re-align with the Self. For during the eclipse, both centrifugal and centripetal forces pause, and there is quietness. Then we can easily merge with our Self.
Only when we merge with our Self can we love our Self, and only when we love our Self can we love our neighbors, even our enemies, as our Self.
Let the interior Sun align with the interior Moon in the glowing axis of your body, the Earth. Pineal, hypothalamus, amygdula.
Don't try to fix history, don't be drawn into old stories of the past, don't punch anybody in the face, fascist or antifa. Just rest your mind in the heart. Let the breath of a new creation cleanse, heal, and illuminate every cell of your flesh, every photon of your soul.
It is not our righteous "activism" that will heal America at this time, but the radiant dignity of our Being, that will emerge peaceful and powerful from its eclipse.
I will let the Buddha speak more eloquently than my babble, sharing the shortest, least known, yet most powerful of all his sutras, the 'Beda Karatta Sutra,' or 'Sutra on the Better Way.'
A seeker came to Buddha and asked, "Should I renounce the world and become a monk, to live in oneness, alone?"
Buddha smiled and said, "You can do that if you like. But there is a Better Way to be all one, which is practiced wherever you are, in whatever state of life, at any time."
"What is this Better Way?" asked the seeker.
Then the Buddha spoke these simple words:
"The past no longer exists.
The future has not been born.
But if you deeply observe,
the present moment
just as it is,
you will attain the peace
of the ancient masters."
"Layam vraja: dissolve now." ~Ashtavakra Gita
They say that dissolving the "I" is enlightenment, and this is an extraordinary event. But really, isn't it quite ordinary? Didn't it happen when you were a child, in every-day moments of wonder? Marveling at a lightning bug, marveling at the eyes of a new friend on the playground, marveling at a shooting star.
Doesn't it happen now, when you give yourself completely to your grief, and dissolve into a tear? When you give yourself to joy, and dissolve into a smile? Give yourself to the sound of Miles, a Monet water lily, a sonnet of Keats, and dissolve into silence. Give yourself to the Friend in your heart, through a touch of divine inhalation, and dissolve into thanksgiving.
At such an ordinary moment, is there anyone left? Doesn't enlightenment, the dissolution of the ego, happen ten thousand times a day?
What is all this talk about getting rid of "I"? The problem is not having an ego, the problem is clinging to it. When "I" am a fixed structure, with weight and mass in time, suffering happens. When "I" let Source create and dissolve me for each new moment of our amazing dance, beauty happens.
The enlightened are like little children. They have lots of ego. Their egos are like an ocean of bubbles, playfully expanding, then popping into nothing, every now. The arising of "I" is for expression, the dissolving is for wonder. This is the pulse, the breath of creation.
Sometimes I think even the moon and stars are whispering this. In fact, there is not a single thing in all the universe that is not made of infinitesimal love-sparks, ever dissolving into waves of ananda.
Painting by Claudia Olivos.
One of the subtler ways we make the ego a heavy permanent structure, is to imagine that we must carry the suffering of the world on our shoulders. This little mind takes great pride in that work. It is true, we cannot help but breathe in the suffering around us. Yet the healing is not to hold it, but to breathe it out, pouring world-sorrow into the boundless ocean of Divine Love. Slow down. Complete your next exhalation on behalf of humanity, all the way out into the Infinite. Offer everything, and rest.
For thousands of years, when you were thirsty for Grace, you thought of Krishna, you thought of Kwan Yin, you thought of Amitaba, you thought of Jesus. And for a brief moment, a cool breeze came through the burning desert of separation.But the Savior lingered only for the duration of his name, a passing thought. The Guest of your heart did not stay. The Avatar came into this world and departed, ascending to heaven.
O friend, is there not a more constant way, a nourishing wind, a gentle rain, that greens your soul from within?
Why not welcome the Guest who never leaves, the Christ who never departed? Repose in the gesture of your heartbeat, and receive eternal salvation from this breath.
The media says, Tensions continue to rise this morning. Really? Whose tensions? Theirs. It's what they do. As for me, I breathe in the cool misty air of the Salish Sea, filtered through the boughs of a centuries-old cedar growing just outside my window, and I rest in the ancient wonder of this moment. Sacred calm. Sabbath. Friend, serve the world by reposing in your heart.
Photo, my Cedar Friend, by my window
Just outside my bedroom window, there is a cedar tree. It sprang up long before my house was built, and it will stand long after my house has fallen. When my body had not been born, it rooted here. When I crumble to dust, it will grow deeper.
This sacred cedar reminds me to root in my groundless heart. Only from a groundless center can true action spring up. For the heart's silence is a depth of loss, surrender, and self-emptiness so abysmal that al judgment and comparison drown there. In this depth, I can only do what I Am. The present moment is inevitable. And there is no 'should.'
Therefor I bow this Sabbath morning, and place my forehead on these roots, listening for the flow of wisdom and guidance from the dark earth. This is all that is left of "going to church" for me. But I do it with my whole heart.
Photo: Another Sacred Cedar meditation at my window
What is 'non-duality'? So many speak of it, yet few taste the bitter sweet berry of God's name. A love-fermented river? A nectar stream? A sparkling continuum where subject and object, Shiva and Shakti, Lord and Paramour swirl and merge in the oceanic splendor of bewilderment?
Here is a secret: those who drink from the One never regain their sanity. They become Two, and rumba. They are inebriated beyond language. When they do resort to words, they cannot bear to discourse on the dry abstractions of Advaita, but can only sing the lyrics of Bhakti.
For they must speak on behalf of the pain and yearning of a universe in labor. They must speak for the hornet and the jack hammer, for both the quarry and the uncut diamond, the wound and the tooth alike.
The healer is drawn to the bruise like the black moth to a flame. The heart has two chambers. Our soul is not a flat-line but a pulse of light and shadow. The dance of non-duality is devotion.
Even the vulture has a sacred task, to polish our offered bones. Even Adi-Shankara, the fountain of Vedanta, could not contain the bursting wine in his heart. He was a pomegranate, after all, spilling seeds like you and me, mumbling hymns and prayers to the Goddess, to the Guru, to Shambo, Lord of Dissolving.
Video: Adi Shankara's masterpiece, Shiva Manas Puja, from 'Sacred Chants of Shiva' by Craig Pruess, excerpted translation below:
"O Lord, abode of compassion, O Pasupati, deign to accept my mental offerings of a gem-studded seat, a bath with cool water, divine garments inlaid with precious stones, sandal paste scented with musk, a garland made of jasmine, champaka flowers and bilva leaves, incense, and the waving of lights...
"O Sambhu, You are my very Self, my intellect is Goddess Parvati, your attendants are my vital airs, my body is Your temple, all enjoyments of sense-objects are Your worship, my sleep is samadhi, all my movements on my feet are circumambulations of You, whatever I speak is praise of You, and thus whatever action I perform is Your worship.
"When a devotee totally surrenders to God, then, giving up all sense of being a doer and an enjoyer, whatever that devotee does is God’s will.
"Whatever wrongs I may have committed with my hands, feet, speech, body, ears, eyes, or mind, in any action whether prescribed (by the scriptures) or not, deign to forgive all of them. O Ocean of compassion, O Mahadeva, O Sambhu. Hail to you." (Translated by S. N. Sastri)
The age of the Mediator is over. We have a standing invitation to enjoy immediate intimacy with the Radiance who created us.
I need no savior. I need no prophet or guru, no scripture, no sacrament or priest. In Saint Augustine's prescient words, "Deus intimeor intimo meo: God is more inward to me than I am to myself."
I need only a graceful shift of attention to the center of my heart. Here, in the heart's core, is a portal to infinite light. Why not start looking from this place instead of looking for this place?
A heart-shift is a taste of the wine Christ served at the wedding. One sip, one breath-full is enough, with no compulsion to hold it, to concentrate, to stay the flow. Instantaneous savors of grace, enjoyed throughout the day, bring more transformation than hours of rigorous formal discipline.
Here is the loveliest irony of all. I need not reject the Master I once thought I needed to cling to. When surrender happens in the heart, I am free for a more playful relationship with the Source. Liberated from the angst of seeking, I more joyfully taste the sacrament, delight in the scripture, dance in the garden of the guru's glance, walk with my savior on the pathless Way.
This is why Jesus told his disciples, "I no longer call you my servants; now I call you my friends."
Photo by Kristy Thompson
I invite you to place your attention on the gentle sound vibration, Om Namah Shivaya. This universal redeeming mantra purifies the breath and heals the nervous system, the senses, and the world perceived by the senses. The flow of these syllables through your breath enlivens the five elements of your body and the whole earth around you.
Om-Na-Ma-Shi-Va-Ya: "May divine purity pervade earth, water, fire, air, space and consciousness." Each syllable purifies one of the five elements in the body. Na - earth at the root of the spine; Ma - water in the abdomen; Shi - fire in the solar plexus; Va - air in the chest; Ya - prana at the throat; Om - the space in the forehead. The bindu or dot written above Om is the space just above the crown of the head. In that silence space, akasha, all energy merges in the source.
No need to concentrate on these centers, or on the syllables. Simply chant the mantra, then let it ripple away into silence. The blessing of the mantra does not come through our work, our concentration, but through the grace inherent in the space of consciousness itself. For these syllables are the Vrittis or vibrations that arise within the silence of the Atma, the Self. Let waves of purification wash through you and over you. Each vibration will flow automatically to the area in the body where it is needed for healing. Just let the grace of the mantra do the work.
Breathing and chanting this mantra opens awareness to the stream of loving-kindness that created the universe. In the East, this creative stream is called Shakti. She is the Goddess sent forth by God to play, to manifest diversity, and to create. Thus Shiva, who is the unmanifest stillness of pure awareness, delights in the dance of his own energy in the form of Goddess Shakti, who in the West is called the Holy Spirit.
Let the mantra flow effortlessly as a pulsation of inner sound, resonating through the hollow cord at the center of the spine. If the syllables grow faint and run together into one stream, like the murmur of a mountain brook, wonderful! Let it be. Thus the mantra merges into Shivo'ham, "I am Shiva."
If the mantra dissolves like a fading chime into pure silence, wonderful! Let it be. Thus the mantra merges into Om, the resonance of the Unmanifest.
If the syllables remain distinct, sparkling, majestic and clear, that is wonderful too! Let the mantra be, however it comes.
Your mind is the open window divine Light wants to pour through. Your breath is the wellspring of divine Love. Your heart is the fountain where the grace of Divine Mother gushes into creation. Om Namah Shivaya.
All hearts beat in one language, whether the mouth speaks English or Persian. By some ancient covenant written in our bones, we consent to the message in the light that spills through a stranger's eyes. Whether we worship Allah or Yahweh, it takes just a glance to know that all human blood ebbs and flows in sympathy with the same moon.
I know, friend, priests and imams call you to war; but there's something in your ancient brain that is deeper than fear, something that nods in agreement with the enemy, grinning wildly, effusing tears and murmuring, 'Yes, yes, you are right!'
Every Jew breathes atoms that Mohammad breathed. The Prophet's breath contained Christ's sighs, desert dust shaken from Moses' sandals. Right now, you and I are breathing Jesus. We embody one another, the way a gaze sent up from Isfahan, and a gaze from the Dome of the Rock, mingle in one unspeakable star.
Now try this experiment: remove your heart. Place it on a butcher's block and see what color it is. See if it's made of paper and ink, carved from stone, with a face. See if your heart is white or black, Arab, Incan, Jewish or Pashtoon. See if it's burgundy, tinted with rose, a little drunk, trembling and alive. See if it gasps with a prayer, a spasm of wanting, yearning to fill itself with the blood of every man or woman on earth....
This is what you learn: to depend on the silence of the body to solve every riddle of words; to gaze inward toward that nameless star in the center of your ancient brain, where all scriptures came from; to listen by some stream in the summer woods, where the water whispers and swallows wait quietly in green shadows, trusting the answers of the heart, and hearing the breath that ever goes in and out, like this: सो ऽहम, 'Ham'so,' I Am the Divine.
* Photo: the great Mosque at Isfahan, Iran.* सो ऽहम्: the mantra 'So'ham,' union of inbreath and outbreath, soul and God.
"What can I do when I feel like I am barely coping, and about to have a panic attack?"
You need to know this: the only way out of your maze is to Be in the place where you are.
If you are barely coping, here are the instructions for you at this moment: barely cope.
Barely cope, but do not compare yourself to anyone else, and do not compare this moment to any other moment. It's the wanting to be elsewhere that causes you to suffer.
Barely cope, without resistance, without comparison, and your bare coping is suddenly full of Presence.
This moment of barely coping has the same fullness as the most wonderful moment! The content of this moment may be different, but the Presence is always the same; it is boundlessly complete because there is no other moment.
"But what can I do about this panicked breathless sensation in my chest when I am barely coping"?
Instead of avoiding this panicky feeling, feel it 100%. Commit to spending the next few minutes being with the sensation as it is. This is your path out of the maze.
It sounds obvious, but it may come as a revelation to discover that you feel breathless because you are not breathing. When breath is constricted, you will undoubtedly feel panic, because this sensation is how the body tells you that you need to breathe. Your body is your spiritual guide.
Just becoming aware of your breathing, instead of trying to focus on something else, will gradually slow the panic response. Stay with the breath and merge your mind with every physical sensation as it arises. Then, when you are ready, take one slow marvelous breath, filling your whole body.
Amazingly, millions of people have never completed a single breath, from the nostrils right down to the belly. Do it now. In the midst of a panic attack, this breath is your only duty. Savor every inch of your breath-body: the cool sensation of inhalation in the nostrils, the brush of air with the sound of a breeze down the back of your throat, the slow expansion of chest and ribs, the softening and widening of your belly, and the sense of touching bottom, grounding in the pit of the stomach. One breath can be the path that connects heaven and earth.
Now breathe out, following this same path in reverse, from belly to nostrils.
Yes, it's a hectic day. So what? It's the only day you have. In fact, it is the perfect day because there is no alternative. "This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118)
Even in the middle of a hectic day, you can celebrate this breath, this moment, this body.
Doubt speaks, "How can I possibly be happy in such a world?"
The silence between thoughts replies, "Must the world be fixed for you to be happy?"
Jesus was in constant action, service and compassion for our planet. Yet he said, My kingdom is not of this world. He was crucified. Yet in his deepest core, he was never not happy.
If our happiness depends on our circumstance, we are tossed about by winds of karma. But if we rest in the luminosity of our original nature, the bounty of awareness simply aware of awareness, we are happy in the midst of all action, because our happiness has nothing to do with it.
Then actions can arise spontaneously, with no compulsion to "improve" the world. The restful heart does not see a snake in the rope, only a rope. Therefor, the restful heart is not motivated by panic or fear. The rope is just a rope, and the world is just as it is right now, which includes our spontaneous action to ease another's pain.
Solve the problem of this moment, without imagining a catastrophe in the future. Don't spoil the authentic beauty of your present action by trying to change the future. You can't. The world follows its own nature. This moment is inevitable.
Now here is the hardest lesson of all. Our good works may not be as good as we think, if they interfere with another's free will, or deny another's right to learn from the consequences of their own deeds.
In the mind of God or the Universe, who can say whether the works of the most passionate activist are of any more value than the patient washing of a single dish in a pail of soap suds?